Johnny Knoxville- the best representative of the best sides of lowbrow comedy- came to Vulture Fest in New York City and sat down with David Edelstein for an hour of conversation on Sunday. Let’s just take a moment and appreciate the fact that somehow, the original Jackass, got an hour long interview with film critic David Edelstein.
The crowd who showed up to this event- in stark contrast to the Samantha Bee conversation I would attend soon after- was exactly what you’d expect: a whole lot of dudes. They played a clip from Johnny Knoxville’s latest – Action Point – which is basically Jackass but with a very thin plot about an old amusement park. Edelstein, bless his heart, opened the set with a leading question, hoping that Knoxville will belie what we all assume to be his sensibilities, and agree that the whole Jackass thing is basically a satire on toxic masculinity. But no, despite Edelstein’s efforts to attribute greater meaning to Knoxville’s oeuvre, Knoxville played it straight, talking about how the Jackass guys are a family who just happen to make each other’s lives hell for months at a time and film it all.
Turned out this conversation was not for me. Thankfully, I had to leave this discussion early and move onto greener pastures- and ah, and how delightful it was. The Full Frontal with Samantha Bee crew, where me and my fellow liberal feminists gathered to hail our supreme leader, Sam Bee. The room was huge and packed. Obviously, it was mostly women, but a few men sympathetic to our cause were there as well. A goddamn standing ovation as Samantha Bee, head writer Melinda Taub, and correspondents Ashley Nicole Black, Allana Harkin Amy Hoggart, and Mike Rubens walked onstage.
The hour began with Sam showing a clip of Eric Schneiderman, and they talked about how they got trolled when the story dropped about Schneiderman abusing women because they had done a piece on him months ago basically comparing him to a super hero because of the good work he was doing. Ashley Nicole Black pointed out that his name sounds exactly like Spiderman! I think it was Ashley who pointed out that when a man does something wrong, people always look for a woman to blame, so trolls went after the show for their piece on Schneiderman.
“We learned that he had tweeted at the show that day. Eric Schneiderman had with the animations of himself. He was like, ‘Remember when I was on Full Frontal.’ He literally clung to us like we were his feminist life raft. Like, ‘Remember when the feminists thought I was cool. I’m still cool. I still got it.’ Obviously, he knew that that story was going to be breaking about him. And that unleashed troll hell on our show. We’re always trolled. That’s just like a fact. But sometimes it escalates in a way that feels really different. It’s in the air. Everything’s different. Everything changes. You reach a new kind of high, and that is what we experienced from that because he did that. I mean he’s a f-ing asshole.”
Moderator Rebecca Traister asked pretty typical questions: does using comedy to deal with the horror that is our current president act as a catharsis? Do you feel added pressure because you report on issues that mainstream news doesn’t even take a stab at?
At one point, Traister asked her if there is more pressure now that Trump is in the White House, since we all assumed the election would’ve gone the other way? And with the #metoo movement, is there more pressure to have a show that has a feminist lens to cover these sorts of issues that mainstream news isn’t focusing on? The panel pushed back on that somewhat, saying that they were always going to be a feminist show, even before Trump, even before #metoo and they had always planned to take their mission this seriously.
They talked about Paul Ryan (not a true statesman but a man who made a mess and is hightailing it out of dodge), next week’s show about Yemen, and trying to talk about things that aren’t being covered elsewhere in the news. And they covered their own office dynamic- yes men do work there, yes anger fuels much of their material, and much like your place of work- the snack array is pretty dismal. Diversification of their staff is always on their minds, and getting new perspectives is always part of the mission.
The discussion was funny but poignant, showing just how necessary Full Frontal is for so many people, and the team walked out with yet another rousing standing ovation.